St Cronan, Temple Cronan

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Feature Sets (3)


A small roofless oratory approx. 6.65 m x 3.91 m (Westropp), with gables and side walls intact. The lower walls contain large limestone blocks; the quoins are rounded at the angle and some have a slight arris roll. A number of heads and corbels are set into the walls. The original W doorway is blocked with rubble masonry, and a later medieval doorway is inserted into the N wall. Romanesque sculpture is found on the W doorway to the nave, in the E gable window, on a head set above the N doorway, and on various corbels. There is also a plain font. Near the oratory are two house-shaped shrines or tombs, constructed of stone slabs.


Founded by St. Cronan (of Roscrea or Tuamgraney?)


Exterior Features


W doorway, nave (blocked)

Plain inclined jambs and lintel. Beast heads flank the jambs at top.

N jamb, W face: beast head on n. side of second jamb stone from top, thus evidently part of original doorway. Badly weathered.

S jamb, W face: beast head in similar position at S side of jamb, but on a separate stone set outside the second jamb stone from top, and projecting more than the head on N jamb. The jaws are open to reveal tongue and teeth. The head has a flat top and appears to have been designed as a corbel.


E gable


A small plain round-headed light.


The window has a wide splayed reveal with inclined jambs topped by a lintel. The lower courses of the jambs have angle rolls and a vertical row of pellets on the W face (visible on S jamb, damaged on N jamb). The upper courses of the jambs, built of rubble, and the lintel are probably of later medieval date.

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

E wall

SE angle, at top: corbel with hollow chamfer on the underside bearing an inverted mask in low relief, with a lyre-shaped snout formed of spirals.

NE angle, at top: damaged corbel.

N wall

Above the later medieval doorway: human head, with traces of a curly beard. Probably not in its original location. The doorway has a pointed arch and probably dates from the 15thc.

S wall

Centre, at top: beast head corbel, with flat top and bulging eyes under arched eyebrows.

W wall

SW angle, at top: corbel with hollow chamfered underside, with an inverted dog-like mask in low relief. The sculpture appears to be unfinished.

Towards the R side of the facade: corbel with human head. Situated below the gable and approx. 2.4m from the ground. Gable, toward top: corbel with human head.

NW angle, at top: damaged corbel with plain, hollow-chamfered underside.

All corbels
d. projection from wall 0.20 m
h. 0.24 m approx.
w. 0.19 m



Round stoup with shallow bowl, undecorated, broken, lying on the ground. (Not found in 2002).


The church appears to be largely 12thc. with some later medieval alterations, including the rebuilding of the upper parts of the E window on the interior, the insertion of the N doorway and blocking of the W doorway, and relocation of some of the corbels. The beast head on the S side of the W doorway does not appear to be in its original position, and may originally have served as a corbel. It is similar in style to some of the beast heads at the Nuns' Church, Clonmacnoise. The human heads on the W facade and over the N doorway are unusually realistic in style; they are not in their original locations, and appear to have been designed as corbels.


  • A. Champneys, Irish Ecclesiastical Architecture. London and Dublin 1910, 1971, 103-4.
  • Dunraven, Notes on Irish Architecture. Dublin 1875 I, 105, 107.
  • H.G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings. Dundalk 1955 I, 74.
  • G. Petrie, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland anterior to the Norman invasion. Dublin 1845, 184.
  • P. Harbison, 'An Ancient Pilgrimage 'Relic-Road' in North Clare?', The Other Clare, 24 (2000), 55-59.
  • P. Harbison, 'Some Romanesque Heads from County Clare', NMAJ, 15 (1972), 3-5.
  • J. Ruffino, The church and site of Temple Cronan, the Burran, County Clare (Unpublished MA dissertation, UCC, 2000)
  • T.N. Westropp, 'The Churches of County Clare, and the origin of the ecclesiastical divisions in that county,' PRIA, 22 (1900) 134.
General view from W.
View from NW.
View, from W.
Exterior, general view
Church and tomb, view from SE.


Site Location
Temple Cronan
National Grid Reference
M 29 00 
now: Clare
now: St Cronan
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Tessa Garton